He may yet get his man by signing Fernando Alonso – but is the McLaren spying row about to blow up in Flavio Briatore’s face?
Renault has today been summoned to explain itself in front of the FIA over allegations that it was in possession of confidential information belonging to McLaren during last season.
The allegations refer to the recruitment to the French team of former McLaren design engineer Phil Mackereth – and three computer disks full of secret information that might or might not have crossed the channel with him.
A statement released by the FIA today says that team representatives have been called to answer a charge that between September 2006 and October 2007, “the Renault F1 Team had unauthorised possession of documents and confidential information belonging to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, including, but not limited to the layout and critical dimensions of the McLaren F1 car, together with details of the McLaren fuelling system, gear assembly, oil cooling system, hydraulic control system and a novel suspension component used by the 2006 and 2007 McLaren F1 cars.”
The hearing is due to take place in Monaco on December 6.
Renault has said it will act with full transparency towards both the FIA and McLaren, while that team has said that it will not be publicly commenting.
A crucial question to ask when trying to understand the Byzantine politics of F1 is always: “Who benefits?”
The answer to that in spy row terms has emphatically been Ferrari, who have secured both a drivers’ and constructors’ championship that they were far from certain of winning solely on the track.
But, if the smoke signals coming from the bookies are correct, McLaren and Renault are in line to do a drivers’ swap, sending Fernando Alonso straight back to Renault and providing the perfect pay-off for Briatore’s year-long campaign to get his champion back.
Alonso has now been successfully dislodged from McLaren. But at what potential cost?
When the first hints of a Renault angle to the spy scandal emerged, before the Belgian Grand Prix, Briatore was asked to comment at the pre-race press conference – and he came out fighting.
He said then: “First, if somebody tells me it’s the same [as McLaren], I sue somebody, quickly. Second, it’s not an investigation regarding myself and the team. Third, we give all the information to the Federation, at least when we found out something, and this is it.
“I don’t want, at this moment (to talk) about Renault because first we are not being investigated, second we give all our evidence to McLaren and to Mr Mosley and to the Federation.”
It will be interesting to see what his new public position will be.